On Murder (and other necessary business decisions)

kill your darlingsToday’s post is short, so go brew a cuppa and come back to read. By the time your K-cup machine or French Press has done its thing, you’ll be done with your reading here. We’re talking about murder today.

There are an inordinate number of conversations we have, in both business and life, that are designed to conjure-up ideas. We sit around and birth ideas like rodents, crapping out concept spawn like it’s a numbers game. If only half survive, HEYO! It’s a win.

But there’s value in destruction as well. Merciless killing. Murder.

In the process of putting together the first half of my book – yeah, that one I’m being paid to write – I sat and looked at over 10,000 words and…killed them. A big ass highlight-and-delete action. And nothing had ever felt so good. We focus so much on quantity, word count, deadlines – that we forget the inherent value in ruthlessly murdering something we’ve created (and on occasion, in cold blood).

There’s more than 10,000 words in my life that need some killing off, mostly to make room for things that are worthwhile. My business is the same way. Now, to figure out the means. Hachet, .45 caliber, Chinese throwing stars, quarterstaff or dagger – they need to go and it won’t be pretty. But here’s the deciding factor: I can see everything I want and need standing right there behind all of these things that need to go. The problem is that all these shitty, obstructive and demanding things are keeping me from getting a clear line of sight the the things I hold most dear. And that’s gotta stop.

I can see them through the sea of quantity (not quality), excuses, delays, Pick Mes, Hey Yous and I Hate These, so I think it’s best to mow them own like something out of a Michael Bay flick and get on with the business of life and business the way I’d rather have them…instead of the way I’ve let them become. And if I spent more time on killing things off actively then letting them die on the vine, well, that’s energy well-spent.

Kill, kill, kill.

(coffee’s ready)

25 comments
The Redhead
The Redhead

Brilliantly stated, Claire. Simply brilliant. I wrote a post once on Four Indispensable Things and those 4 items? Yeah, I stick by 'em. Most everything else gets chucked - and regularly.

essays
essays

very cool post! thanks for sharing!

Kneale Mann
Kneale Mann

Just finished doing that. And if any of the detractors make one final attempt to kill me like a bad thriller where the hero needs to shoot the villain three times, my holster is open and ready. Time to get out of our own way and stop letting the time suck rule the horizon.Kill Kill Kill. Shuddup. Shuddup. Suddup. 

J.D. Meier
J.D. Meier

I'm going to have to recommend Nunchucks.   While Chinese throwing stars are sweet, Nunchucks will get you extra style points, and we all know it's about the experience.

Emily Suess
Emily Suess

I have the perfect Onion T-shirt for my next kill session. There's this cute little fur ball on the front with the caption, "Kitten thinks of nothing but murder all day." Kitten is a badass.

Michele Bunn
Michele Bunn

In a course I recently took on Marketing Writing, we heard this quote:  "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry   Seems like license to kill to me!  Great post - now I'm getting my coffee.

Motivational Smart Ass
Motivational Smart Ass

Great post and reminder to us all! Reminds me of one of my favorite Bruce Lee quotes which I try to keep in mind (but often forget about until things start to get piled real high around...):  "It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential." So much unessential, so much to be hacked... P.S. I vote for the throwing stars. Always.

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika, Years and years ago my main contribution to the world of words was contributing a Jazz column in a weekly magazine. The Features Editor always said, "edit your own work mercilessly." It was excellent advice. Dare I say, that as I sit here and read all the blog posts and stuff that the ether rains on me, I wish for one thing above all else: that all the writers who send me stuff had worked for that same Features Editor. What's 10000 words compared with the guts it took to murder them? After all, words are merely carriages for meaning . Keep churnin' 'em out, Erika. Regards Leon

Annie Sisk
Annie Sisk

Take imperfect action regularly. Well said, Sister Red.

Nick Armstrong
Nick Armstrong

Yes. Absolutely. Even "good" ideas can get in the way of great ideas; so slay everything mercilessly until you get down to the best ones. A moleskine is just a fancy obituary for good ideas. Implementation is the trick.

Michael
Michael

From Things About Marketing you learned from Stevie Ray Vaughn to quoting Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" (Kill, kill, kill.).  Yes, I may have that one on vinyl, too. Right next to my unsealed John Denver's Greatest Hits LP.   ~Michael

David Reimer
David Reimer

Those murders you write about (idea assassination?) are a great parallel for one of the critical gaps between start-ups or established companies that succeed versus those that fail. The problem is almost never the quantity of cool ideas or the potential paths a company COULD go.  The problem is cutting through the quantity to seize that one core truth that might just rock the world. Good luck with your continued writing -- and selective killing sprees.

Peter Wright
Peter Wright

Why stop at just killing words we have written, why not continue the culling exercise, by going through all the words we receive from others every day and think we should read? Then take it further through all the stuff we are involved in  on the Social Media sites. If we really take this killing spree of yours seriously, think how simple our lives would be.

Trackbacks

  1. […] On Murder (And Other Necessary Business Decisions “There’s more than 10,000 words in my life that need some killing off, mostly to make room for things that are worthwhile. My business is the same way. Now, to figure out the means. Hachet, .45 caliber, Chinese throwing stars, quarterstaff or dagger – they need to go and it won’t be pretty. But here’s the deciding factor: I can see everything I want and need standing right there behind all of these things that need to go. The problem is that all these shitty, obstructive and demanding things are keeping me from getting a clear line of sight the the things I hold most dear. And that’s gotta stop.” ~Erika Napoletano at Redhead Writing […]

  2. […] has a way with words that sucks you in and keeps you coming back for more. Take for example her post about murder. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to take a big beloved section of it and […]